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Rip Rig + Panic

Even during the eclectic 80s, it’s hard to imagine a major label having pursued a band that never rehearsed, boasted no discernible frontman and named themselves after a 1965 LP by jazz saxophonist Roland Kirk.

Yet, in 1981, such a chase ensued, ending with Virgin signing Bristol-birthed, London-based avant-pop collective Rip Rig + Panic, featuring multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Gareth Sager and drummer Bruce Smith from recently deceased post-punk quintet The Pop Group, keyboard player Mark Springer and bassist Sean Oliver.

To their credit, Richard Branson and co largely indulged the band’s whims and released their surreal but playful debut album God on chart-defying 45rpm double-LP format, regardless of financial return (the album was too radical for daytime airplay or significant sales).

The equally feverish but rather more structured follow-up, I Am Cold (1982), however, locked horns with the Top 40 on the back of two funky Neneh Cherry-fronted 45s, Storm The Reality Asylum and You’re My Kind Of Climate: the latter even winning the band a slot on popular BBC sitcom The Young Ones.

They also performed at the first WOMAD festival in 1982 shortly before Cherry returned to Sweden to have her first baby. Sean Oliver’s sister Andrea temporarily took over on vocals and Louis Moholo joined on drums.

The group persevered into 1983, bequeathing an underwhelming third LP, Attitude, before Smith, Cherry and bassist Sean Oliver briefly regrouped as Float Up CP, delivering the underrated, if more commercially flavoured, Kill Me In The Morning for Rough Trade.

Neneh Cherry went on to a successful solo career with Andrea Oliver contributing to some of her songs.

Neneh Cherry
Andrea Oliver
Gareth Sager
Guitar, saxophone, keyboards, vocals
Sean Oliver
Mark Springer
Piano, saxophone, vocals
David De Fries
Louis Moholo
Bruce Smith